Monday, June 1, 2009

Flora Attica: Galivanting amidst the Greek gardens

The last day of May had me leafing through the photos that I had taken throughout the Veniamin month of spring. The fragrant orgy of the warm Greek spring was simply irresistible not to lock away in digital form for the gloomiest days of winter and the promise of a rampant summer was achingly palpable in every petal and every leaf.
Here are some of them as a small tribute to the glory of scented walks in the city...

The season of the lilac is all too brief, its passing leaving behind a nostalgic pang for beauty betrodden.

I like to prolong their fragrant whisperings by wearing Tocadilly, After my Own Heart by Ineke and Highland Lilac of Rochester well into the early throes of summer, when their lush, ripe beauty is but a distant memory. (click the links for reviews)

Pittosporum tobira (the dominant blossom in the heart of the strict, celebral chypre Knowing by Estee Lauder) hides in its small little corola a sweet, intoxicating smell of white floral longing.
The whiffs caught in the evening make the heart palpitate with pleasure and rapture.

The vibrant flowers of oleander in pink, white or salmon are characteristic of the Greek landscape and truly abundant, even in the intense heat of the summer. Their dusty, bittersweet aroma that combines earth and stem is indicative of their poisonous nature, yet tempting to a tentative taste.

Robinia pseudoacacia (mock acacia) on the other hand blooms safely in May and the white grappes hanging off the trees are swaying in the cool breeze of early morning with the promise of sunny happiness.

Small statuettes are very common in doorways and porticos and here we have a Venetian lion under a climbing vine and fuschia bougainvillea bush. The early peaches are visible on the peach tree at the background. The succulent juice of the fruit whets my appetite for Péché Cardinal by parfums MDCI, in which the sinful peach is the indomitable protagonist.

Fig trees
, their mighty shade and their dusty, bitter tang of the leaves always a welcome solace in the schorching rays of high summer, are already producing their first figs, unripe and green. They're bitter still, their white-ish "milk" making one's face grimace upon smelling like a child sucking on a sour lemon for the very first time.
The refreshing quality of both tree and fruit is lovingly captured in L'artisan's Premier Figuier, Cielo by Napa Valley, and A la figue by Satellite.

Scarlett bougainvilleas are sadly without their match in perfumery, but their emblematic contrast with the white of the houses casts our mind to summer vacations on Greek isles and their respective irresistible bouquet of aromata of herbs and foliage.

Roses are early bloomers in the warm climate and the juxtaposition of this most English of flowers with the terracotta of the archaic metopes and akroteria is arresting in its unexpectedness. Whenever the mood strikes me for a lush rose fragrance such as these blooms I turn to the embullient rose and violet combination that is Yves Saint Laurent's Paris; its crystal melody speaking of feminine elegance and almost tipsy romanticism. When I want an earthier companion to my rose, Une Rose Chyprée by Andy Tauer and Frédéric Malle's Une Rose provide the rich, dirty feel that enrobs my roses with the pungent soil odour following a summer thunderstorm. And finally when I'm all out for an orientalised classical rose that "would smell as sweet", nothing will do but Guerlain's Nahéma.

Last but not least, this garlanded doorway of delight had me stop in my tracks even before I turned the corner of the small alleyway; the fragrant stream of the jasmine trellis was so potent, so intoxicating, my feet had a will of their own trying to track the source of the heavenly aroma! Nothing caprtures the beauty and the awe of summer jasmine in the warm embrace of the Mediterannean like A la Nuit by Serge Lutens ~its enveloping hug is as mesmerising as falling in love all over again: not only with one's beloved but, more importantly, with life itself.

All photos by Elena Vosnaki, copyright for Perfume Shrine. Click to enlarge.


  1. Alexandra13:46

    Great photos.
    Too bad Tocadilly is so hard to find these days. I adore lilac.
    Have you tried Volupte by Oscar de la Renta? It smells like pure juicy peaches.
    Oh, and for me spring starts with hyacinth, to bad I just can`t find a right one in perfume form. So far Bill Blass is the best, but not great. Some advice on that?

  2. Thanks A!

    I think you can find Tocadilly online still, shouldn't be too difficult. I used to like and enjoy Volupte! I should probably revisit it. Thanks for the reminder!!
    As to hyacinth, you should definitely try (if you haven't already) Chamade, Grand Amour and the great ~but dearly departed~ Vacances by Jean Patou.

  3. You stole my idea! wanted to make a post on 'What fragrant stuff grows up the street' as soon as it stops raining:D

  4. L,

    great minds etc etc...I would love to see what grows up your street! :-)

  5. I always thought Dolce and Gabanna
    Feminine smelled like dirty hyacinth .I need to look up the notes in that...
    Gorgeous photos . One of the things I miss the most about living in the South . Lilacs do not grow here .
    Intoxicating photos !

  6. YOU made me so-
    Very happy.....

  7. Anonymous17:44

    Thanks for taking us with you on a lovely walk.
    -- Gretchen

  8. Anonymous17:46

    Dear E,

    And I thought my neighbourhood was abloom! Thank you for the beautiful photos. And thank you for introducing me to Tocadilly a few weeks back. I bought it for my mum and she loved the top notes but something bothered her as the scent dried down. She gave the bottle back to me and I am actually wearing this unabashed floral, and enjoying it. Our lilacs just turned brown yesterday, signalling the end of their reign :(.



  9. Carol honey, thank you!
    Love lilacs as's such a pity that they bloom so soon (and in perfect timing for Easter with which they share the name in Greek) and then they vanish so soon...
    I have to remind myself of Feminine, haven't smelled it in a long time. I only recall the yuzu (was it?) Sounds good!

  10. Ida,

    that's so nice of you to say so. Glad I provided some happiness :-)
    Wish I could post all the pics (but I'd bore you all stiff!)

  11. Gretchen,

    you're most welcome, glad you liked it!!

  12. N,

    I'm sure you're amidst lovely blossoms right now, with the weather warming up.
    Tocadilly has a musky drydown, something that might bother someone who doesn't like those musky florals. I happen to love that element, and I'm happy you like it too. It's indeed very floral in a non-loud way.

    Lilacs are so ephemeral, aren't they?

  13. Two species of jasmine, some roses, some sort of lilac I yet have to find out about, mimosa (well, three months ago), wisteria, now second wave of bloom, some trees with big white blossoms.
    Now, I have an itch to create, as I mentioned, and the next darn scent will be the journey uphill to the library, with creeper roses, cypresses, hay, cedars and something more.
    Hit me with a brick, someone, I'm thinking only with my nose lately:D

  14. Don't count on me for the brick hitting!! LOL I like the way your nose is taking you lately.
    Sounds interesting! The mimosa season is well past here as well, seeing as they're the first thing blossoming in late February (wisteria soon following).
    Your new escapade sounds interesting. Have you sourced your materials?

  15. Well, I have some cedar essential oil, cypress one is easy to come by, the rest will be an issue, especially with the weirder flowers. Or olives. I'll see.

  16. Rappleyea03:03

    Gorgeous pictures - I can almost smell them! And I loved the perfume associations.

    I've been thinking about whether you need to write (I actually mean compile all of these wonderful articles) just one book with several sections (Perfume in Nature, Perfume and Art, The History of Perfume, Perfume Ingredients, Perfume Travels, etc., etc.) or perhaps a couple of books.... ;-)


  17. Mm... I love the smell of lilacs, too! But I found En Passant rather disappointing; should get around to trying Tocadilly, after that lovely review you wrote.

  18. Anonymous06:26

    Bravo PerfumeShrine!!!!
    Nice photo from Attika!!!
    You appear the beauties of Greece.
    Bravo, bravo, bravo ......

  19. L,

    I am eagerly awaiting your progress news :-)

  20. Thank you ever so much Donna for your kind words!
    I need the nudge I guess. Thanks!!

  21. D,

    EP was disappointing to me as well for some reason. Don't rush, I will send over a little Tocadilly. ;-)

  22. Oh, see! A walk in spring through Athens, that is truly a supreme pleasure! Thank you for the great photographs and comments! How i love Bougainvilleas and Jasmine bushes - you only find them in the Mediterranean with such quality, SIZE and stunning beauty, growing and entwining among the old buildings, breathing history! Believe it or not, my own small Oleander had its very first shy blossom only this weekend and it's well protected on a balcony! Peonies and Irises are just in full bloom in my mother's garden and lilacs have just gone, maybe two weeks ago. We're a little behind you, over here but with a friend like you the pleasure is double!
    Fragrant greetings! @---->--------

  23. Dearest N,

    you flatter me! It's true that nature has a way of enslaving one's attention during these months, though. Jasmine is a round-year phenomenon, it's so rampant, so intoxicating, so...I can't find the proper words.
    I also love irises, same as the ancient Greeks who onomatized them. There are lots growing in the wild, but they're not considered a plant for the garden or the yard for some reason here(why??).
    Your mother's garden sounds delectable. Enjoy your beauties!!


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